This week sees the start of a new slot on my blog – interviews with lots of lovely authors! My first interviewee is the delightful Diane Jeffrey who I recently met at Harrogate Crime Festival. I’m sure you’ll enjoy reading about her and her gripping psychological thrillers.
Q. Your third book, The Guilty Mother, has just been released. Can you tell us a little bit about it?
A. It’s the story of Melissa Slade, who is serving a life sentence for the murder of one of her babies, and Jon and Kelly, journalists who investigate her case when new evidence comes to light. Is Melissa guilty or has there been a gross miscarriage of justice? And if she’s innocent, what happened to her babies?
Q. What do you most enjoy about writing psychological thrillers?
A. It allows me to get in touch with my dark side legitimately! No, more seriously, I’ve always liked thrillers. I started reading the crime fiction novels my mum took out of our local library when I was very young. I’m also fascinated with how our minds work, what makes us tick, and the fact that we all have good and bad sides, qualities and flaws. Psychological thrillers explore this, I think.
Q. Where do you get your ideas from?
A. Sometimes real life, but mostly from my warped imagination, although there are chunks of my own experiences in every book or short story I write.
Q. Your publisher is Harper Collins. Can you tell us about your journey to publication?
A. I sent off my first novel when I was eight years old. It was entitled The Stowaway and that’s about all I remember about it. I think I might have illustrated it, which is worrying as I’m no artist (huge understatement)! At school and university I wrote a few short stories. When my son was a baby, so about sixteen years ago, I wrote a chick lit novel. It was unanimously rejected, but I did receive a few encouraging comments from some of the literary agents I had sent my submission to. Then, when my kids were little, I wrote some rhyming texts for children’s picture books. They were all rejected, too, although my kids liked them!
It was 2014 before I tried writing another novel, and this time it was a psychological thriller. It took me a year to write and then another year to rewrite about six times! I was very lucky to have been put in touch with two authors: Elizabeth Haynes and Susi Holliday. Without them, I wouldn’t be a published author today. Susi read my whole book and helped immensely. Elizabeth suggested writing the ‘NOW’ chapters in the present tense and alternating with the past tense for the flashbacks. I rewrote the sample chapters and sent them out again. And I got three requests for the full manuscript! I rewrote the whole book one more time while I was on holiday in the Lake District, changing the tenses etc., and two weeks after coming back home to France, I got a phone call from Clio, who is now my editor at HQ, HarperCollins, to say they wanted to publish my book. And that became my debut, Those Who Lie.
Q. You’ve now written three books. Which is your favourite and why?
A. The Guilty Mother is my favourite book, although I enjoyed writing He Will Find You a lot more! I was way out of my comfort zone writing The Guilty Mother and I thought it was an original idea but I wasn’t sure if what I was writing was any good or if it was utter crap! I had to do loads of research and attempt to get into the head of a male character in order to write Jon’s point-of-view. It was really challenging, but my editor was very excited when I sent her the first draft and when I’d finally finished editing it with her feedback and notes, I was really pleased with what I’d created. I just hope my readers will enjoy it!
Q. What’s the hardest thing you find about being a writer?
A. Juggling. Children, work (I’m an English teacher), sport, writing…
Q. Do you get time to read yourself and if you do, what books do you read?
A. I try to read a wide range of genres, but really most of the books I read are psychological thrillers.
Q. When you’re not writing, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
A. I do a fair bit of sport, mainly swimming, I do DIY around the house and above all, I enjoy spending quality time with my three children, who are my world.
Q. You grew up in Devon and have now moved to France. What do you miss about Devon and England (if anything!)?
A. Lots of things. The beaches. The views. Clotted cream. Cadbury’s chocolate. The language and customs. English Christmases. English pubs. Sunday roasts. Parkrun. Waterstones and WHSmiths. The list goes on… I’m actually very homesick.
Q. Finally, what advice can you give to writers who haven’t yet had the break they’re looking for?
A. Two pieces of advice: Firstly, don’t give up. It has always been my dream to be a published author, but I didn’t manage it until I was 43 years old. I’m still striving to achieve the dream as I see it! Never give up!
Secondly, get in touch with writing communities – authors, bloggers, readers – on social networks (Facebook and Twitter). Most people you meet online are incredibly supportive and helpful. You get to meet some of those people in real life afterwards, and that’s very special.
To buy a copy of Diane’s latest book, The Guilty Mother, click here.